A Panoply of Perspectives

This issue of The Bridge is a composite, with articles on a broad spectrum of issues that I expect readers will find of interest.

  • Marie Thursby writes on the importance of engineering education in terms of industrial innovation and describes some subtleties in the supply and demand figures for engineers in the United States. This contribution is based on her presentation at the NAE Annual Meeting in 2013.
  • Anu Ramaswami describes a new international education program on sustainable infrastructure and sustainable cities, topics that were of interest to my predecessor as editor in chief and a man I very much admired, George Bugliarello.
  • Yossi Sheffi and Barry Lynn review trends in industrial vulnerabilities that may increase systemic supply chain risks.
  • Yannis Phillis, Asad Madni, and colleagues write on the seeming inability of international leaders to take action on climate change.
  • Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies may represent a means to environmental, economic, and energy security, but not without the resources to capitalize on these technologies, in the view of Sunita Satyapal.
  • A leader in the field of nuclear plant design, Salomon Levy, provides a historical perspective and a statement of his thoughts on the disposal of spent nuclear fuel.
  • John Garrick and Carl Di Bella present an update on technical advances for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste, the focus of our summer 2012 issue.

This seemingly eclectic mix of topics collectively treats many engineering issues that are fundamental to life on this planet and to the global standard of living. The world’s inhabitants have fundamental needs—clean air, clean water, a safe and reliable food supply—and their standard of living depends on the quality of their housing and shelter, their health care, and a dependable infrastructure to support economic development in the broadest sense. Many of these topics have been addressed in recent issues and the current contents add to the overall perspective.

With this issue, we are pleased to introduce a new a column that focuses on the role of engineers in the culture of this nation and, indeed, the world. For this inaugural column, Managing Editor Cameron Fletcher and I interviewed Richard Blanco. He is a poet whom our readers may have heard at President Obama’s second inauguration—and a practicing, licensed professional (civil) engineer. So when he is described as a PE he acknowledges that the term represents his standing as not only a professional engineer but also a poet engineer. I consider that Richard is an evolving national treasure and I am pleased to introduce this new column with his interview.

I should point out that I was introduced to Richard by one of our members, Sam Florman, who is himself an accomplished engineer and writer. Sam is the chairman of Kreisler Borg Florman General Construction Company and the author of seven books, one of which, The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, is something of an anthem for liberal engineering education.

Over the years, The Bridge has presented timely, thoughtful, and expert discussion of engineering education, research, and practice with emphasis on the role of engineering and technology in society. With this new column, we hope to add context to the reality that engineers not only build systems that are of service to society but also add to our culture in many other ways. Some engineers have been president of the United States. Some are members of Congress. Some engineers are remarkable authors. I myself sing and dance (so to speak . . .) in cabarets that raise funds for my town hospital! We are planning future interviews for this new feature.

The next issue will cover international perspectives on big data. With an introduction to The Bridge from Dan Berg, guest editor Yong Shi, of the Chinese ARonald M. Latanision (NAE) is corporate vice president of Exponent Failure Analysis Associates.Academy of Sciences, has enlisted authors from the United States, Asia, the European Union, South America, and Australia to convey trends and developments in this fast-moving area. The spring 2015 issue will present selected papers from the September 2014 Frontiers of Engineering symposium.

As always, I welcome feedback from our readers. Please send your comments to me at rlatanision@exponent.com.

About the Author: Ronald M. Latanision (NAE) is corporate vice president of Exponent Failure Analysis Associates.